Fr. Favin Alemão reflects on lessons he learned serving St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica and Ryerson Catholic Students Association for his first assignment as a priest. Photo courtesy of Cesar Membreño, Ryerson Catholics

Fr. Favin ministered to the best of both worlds

By  Michael Romen, Youth Speak News
  • June 20, 2019

Fresh from his ordination into the priesthood in 2017, Fr. Favin Alemão found himself at the centre of what seemed to be two different worlds: as associate pastor at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica and minister to the Ryerson University Catholic Students Association. 

At St. Michael’s, he worked mostly with parishioners in their 50s and 60s. He taught catechesis and celebrated daily Mass. As minister to the campus chaplaincy, he befriended and counselled young people in their early 20s. 

“It took a while to realize I had something to give,” said the 31-year-old Alemão. “They’re looking for authenticity. They want to see how it resonates in their lives and when they find that, they cling to them.” 

Now, he is preparing for his new assignment — pursuing a PhD in Doctrinal Theology in Rome. On June 24, Ryerson students are hosting a farewell party for their beloved priest at the student centre next to the cathedral rectory. 

“The students always talked about Alemão, this Father who was just generally nice, who was funny,” said Renzo Sunga, recent graduate of the Sports Media program at Ryerson. “The way he talks to you — there are people who, when they talk to a priest, they get so intimidated. But with Alemão, you can have a casual conversation.”

Sunga was one of the confirmandi this past Easter. He had heard about Alemão, but met him for the first time while preparing to join the Church during the RCIA process.

Alemão said he learned a lot from the flock he served at the cathedral and Ryerson. 

For one thing, basilica life was quite different from his home parish in Ajax, Ont. St. Michael’s is a historical landmark and mother-church of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

“People come from all over Toronto and the world; it’s the beauty of the church that draws them in,” he said.

Serving two communities was a challenge and sometimes a struggle. Alemão credits many people, including cathedral rector Fr. Ed Curtis and Ben Turland, lead CCO missionary at Ryerson, with helping him learn how to best serve his communities. 

“I learned a lot of theology (at St. Augustine’s Seminary) but I wanted to learn how to apply it in people’s lives,” said the young priest. 

“Like, acedia (spiritual apathy) is a big issue. People are looking for that greater meaning and I want to help reawaken that wonder and awe and that sense of beauty. Toronto is a beautiful place, but we forget that beauty is something God intends for each person.”   

As Ryerson plans his farewell party, Alemão reflects on his eventual mission: to serve those discerning men in seminary as a formator. 

“Initially, I wasn’t sure that I was the best student but I didn’t feel the need to tell Cardinal (Thomas) Collins,” he laughed. 

“He knows what kind of student I am. One of the most important things was the vow of obedience I took when I became a priest. I have a lot of freedom in that I can trust my cardinal. I loved my time in seminary, though it was a lot of feeling unworthy of the priesthood. I want to be part of that discernment.”

(Romen, 24, is a third-year English and Classics student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.)

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